Character Creator’s Log – Nevermind the Novel –

Some days it feels like I don’t even have the time to sneeze, much less map out a page turning back-story. Especially when, if what started out as a bit of fun… begins to feel like work, each sentence a strain.
The good news?
You don’t have to make the time, you don’t have to deal with any of it.

There are easier ways to flush out a character without going all David Copperfield
I Am Born
I Observe
I Have A Change
I Fall Into Disgrace
and all of its other tedious point-by… chin-nodding… plodding… points.

Besides, if you write it all out now, if you include every turn and twist, accolade and fault, where does the character have left to go/grow? Where is there room for someone new to enter their life or become a long-lost acquaintance, rekindled?
Or are you actually intent on playing out a mental-geriatric just waiting for Death to knock?

Better to recall how we all actually converse with and engage people.
Anecdotes. Tales to amuse, frighten and warn. Songs to belt out, lessons to learn, quirks to conceal and shy smiles that end in a rosy-blush.

Quick do me a favor… Find a copy of a play, a script, anything. Turn to the front.
What do you see? Probably something that looks like this?

Cast of Characters
George – 46- Member of the history department at NCU. Married to Martha.

Martha – 52- The daughter of the president of NCU. Married to George.

Nick – 28- A new member of the biology faculty at NCU. Married to Honey.

Honey – 26- Petite, bland wife of Nick.

This is where the play starts.
Whether you’re in the audience thumbing through the playbill, waiting for the lights to dim or reading through the script for the first time. This is what a Cast List gives.
Hardly anything.
An Name, Age, at least one ready Relationship with another character and a Profession.
A NARP, if you will… the absolute bottom barrel essentials of character-based larping.
This is the only OOC introduction I ever want.
How then, are we ever to get to know the character’s personalities, back-stories, where they came from or where they’re going? Or to put it another way, “What’s their deal?”
Simple. By observing. How they interact, how they speak. By what their body language is telling us. If they seem to always be lying or can’t keep a secret. Are they making others uncomfortable or welcome?

My secret key to strong RP is knowing how a character relates to others.
I firmly believe that having a working and most importantly, fluid, inner dialogue is more worthwhile then spending our time writing out an IC novel.

So stay tuned and join us as we tread down the well worn avenues of RP relationships and attempt to pry up the brickwork.

Character Creator’s Log -Character Blueprint-

This is probably the easiest ‘class’ I’ve ever run.
No grades, no essays, no deadlines, no set schedules, no firm outlines…

Actually… that last one is probably why it’s faltering.
Here one day and then weeks, months of solace silence.

Which is generally why the crafting of an outline is item one on any list.
Well, once you get past the initial, simplistic, “I want ____ !” thought that spawns it.

I know that there are a LOT of Character Outlines, Templates, Fill-ins, Forms, Worksheets, Questionnaires, the list goes on… an inexhaustible and exhausting supply.

Google any of those phrases and you’ll get the phone-book of Character-How-To.
90% of them have one thing in common, they’re boring, tedious and time-consuming.
You feel every second and sigh though every question, flipping pages ahead trying to figure out, “How long is this thing?” and start giving blithe, one word answers instead of flushing out a structured story.
Or you’ll get stuck.  You’ll ponder a question too long or too well, completely unwilling to accept that, “I don’t know” is itself an answer and then fail to complete the damn thing.  Sure, you keep meaning to come back, but that promise only matters until you forget about it completely and move on.

So how do YOU make a well-rounded character without them?
Well frankly, I don’t know. I only know what works for me.
So if you want to give this a try, here’s hoping you might find the same.

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Homework:
View your Character’s blueprint as the crafting of one perfect sentence.

Noun. Pick a trope, a stereotype.
Depending on your game and whatever it considers cisnormative, this is usually as easy as pointing to a class, gender or race that’s simply tickles your fancy.
The Brute, The Healer, The Scholar, The Bard, The Magician, The Thief, The Beast,  etc…

Adjective. Flavor with an adjective, one adjective only.
Reluctant, Terrible, Foolish, Brave, Noble, Giggling, Battered, Wandering, etc…

Stop.
Reexamine the two choices you have currently and think. Really think about that adjective. For instance, terrible can also mean feared.  So is your adjective something your character does/is, or something they cause or bring out in others?
Are you happy with any of your thoughts so far?
If the answer is already ‘No’ or even ‘Meh’.
Start over.
Keep pairing until you are at least amused.

Where? Give them a backdrop, set them in a scene.
A Cabin, A School, A Playground, A Store, A Tavern, A Cave, A Theater, etc.

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Completed Example:
A battered bard sat slumped in the corner of the mahogany stage.

Okay, it’s not perfect.
But it should give you an idea about how you may want to introduce your character in-game. What is the pervasive feeling as they enter, or as someone stumbles across them. Is it a trait that people can use to point them out?
But most importantly. Does it make people, make YOU, want to know more?
Because if the character can’t even interest you, how will they be able to draw in anyone else?
That said… How battered is this bard? How do we know that this person is even a bard? Did someone beat them up? Are they drunk or just down on their luck? Are they waiting on someone, or is this where they slept? Why are we paying special attention to the material of the stage? So many questions.
All natural, all stemming from this one sentence.
So keep in mind your personality head shot and don’t be afraid to roll with them.
You’ll have a paragraph(or several) in no time.

How the Light Gets In

Light in the night (Castelldefels)

Light in the night (Castelldefels) (Photo credit: jcarlosn)

In the past I’ve been light source deficient.
There was a frame of time that personal lighting and I were two ships passing in the night.
I don’t mean a couple of times, I mean five years running. The same overnight larp, every year, without fail. It would always be the one thing I forgot and would only recall once I was already wandering about in the dark through a variety of unfamiliar tents (and their sometimes overenthusiastic tie-downs) looking for a quite spot to piss. In this situation particularly, a light source IS your best friend… well, aside from a handful of soft leaves or paper…

Granted, if the larp you’ve joined has specific common areas or if there actually is a ‘bathroom’, these designated spaces tend to have some minimal lighting ‘burning’ throughout the night, and you and your night vision can get you to that spot of ‘glowing embers’, no problem… The way back however, often becomes a maze to your now ruined night-eyes.

So as I was saying, personal lighting.
Grand thing to have.

Course you could try to make up for forgetting for so long, by now overcompensating on lighting. Like I did… Luckily, what that means for anyone reading this, is that I can now divulge some pros and cons to the variety of lighting sources I’ve used or discarded.

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Portable Flame: Any free-standing, oil-burning, fire-based lighting.
PROS:
Aesthetics: Nothing looks better the flame based lighting, there’s simply no substitute for it, replacement ‘flicking’ LEDs can’t even hold a candle, visually speaking.
Warmth: Lighting and heat source in one. Can drive the cold from weapon-stiffened fingers.

CONS:
Monitoring: It can’t be unattended. Someone always has to have a hold of it or be nearby in case the oil runs out, or the flame barring items gets knocked over/ broken etc.
Safety: Relates to monitoring, as any kind of flame (open or not) runs the risk of being knocked into and setting something else on fire. Or in the case on lamps, being smashed scattering glass, oil and quickly licking flame over everything it touches.

JUDGEMENT: Best used as bonfires or in populated areas tabletop/wall sconce lighting.

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Bulbs/LEDs: Anything that runs on batteries or electricity.
PROS:
Variety: They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and forms from quickly concealable lighting to full room ambiance. Even available in candle or tiny ‘berries’ shapes
Economic: Their life span is generally head and shoulders above the rest.

CONS:
Strength: Due to their versatile variety, it’s sometimes hard to gauge how bright they’re going to be, until you’re already thrown into the pitch and can’t see or start blinding people with it.  (I’ve actually tried the latter as a tactic against people in night fights… So maybe for some, this doesn’t fall under ‘con’.)
Modern: If you’re involved in a ‘historic’ or ‘medieval’ larp system some additional effort is often needed to disguise your light as something more archaic or magical (system permitting).

JUDGEMENT: Unless disguised, best used in modern, horror, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, military or when the game has been called and everyone’s already gone out of character.

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Glowers: Glow sticks, sand, paints etc.
PROS:
Disposable: You’re never gonna break the bank with these, nor will you bemoan the loss.
Versatility: Handy little thing these glowers. If you’re running night games, glow sticks can be used as over head marker for the dead or out of game players. Colors can designate effects or be used to tag and find thrown or missile weapons. Paints or sand can mark dangerous or warded areas…  The options and uses for such things are pretty much endless.

CONS:
Charge: Not so much for glow sticks, but often the others need a timed exposure to a light source or even an all day charge to project any semblance of radiance and well, all of them stop working or taking a full charge after awhile.
Single use: Also known as too much work for lack of staying power… Say you spend all day crafting a ward around your tent with sand and started early enough to do a solid job and still leave it plenty of time to charge in the sun… but what happens next event?  You have to craft it all over again… and that can get irritating real quick if your game is event heavy.

JUDGEMENT: Best used as flavor or clarifying markers for tents, areas and accents for magical or fanciful elements.

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Solar: Fixed formed lanterns/lights that harness the power of the sun.
PROS:
Aesthetics: Many of these already try to hid their modern ‘tech’ since they’re often used to accent  landscaping and tend to blend in easily with most games, no matter what your chosen time period.
Cost: You can generally find a six pack or something quick for about $5-12.

CONS:
Charge: Again with the charge… If you forget to leave them out to get the full sun charge they need, short of borrowing someone else flashlight to try and quick charge leaves you pretty much up shit creek.
Douse: Since they’re light sensitive aka “OFF when there’s light, ON when there’s not”… It can be troubling to learn suddenly that there’s no off-switch.  Especially if you’re trying to hide or sneak up on someone and have no emergency bushel basket to conceal it under.

JUDGEMENT: Best used where it’s left out at all times for trail staging or for an entry ‘porch’ light type areas.

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Well, I think that’s it. Hope this list helps and happy lighting.
For those curious… my favorite multipurpose personal light source is one of these babies.